Tom Peterkin: Jim Murphy to revive Scottish Labour

Jim Murphy on the Royal Mile during the referendum campaign. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Jim Murphy on the Royal Mile during the referendum campaign. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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MURPHY has the profile and pragmatism to revive the fortunes of Scottish Labour, writes Tom Peterkin.

It IS somewhat ironic that it is Labour that appears to have gone into meltdown after referendum victory, while the SNP is buoyant despite having its dreams crushed at the ballot box.

There may be some irony, but there has also been a sense of inevitability when it comes to the dramatic nature of Labour’s post-referendum shenanigans.

The resignation of Johann Lamont with her broadside at her “dinosaur” Westminster colleagues was symptomatic of a troubled party, which has performed lamentably at Holyrood in recent years.

Ms Lamont was the latest in a line of earnest and well-intentioned politicians who have tried and failed to reinvigorate the party in the face of a highly-motivated and disciplined SNP.

Since Jack McConnell lost the 2007 Scottish election to Alex Salmond, Wendy Alexander, Iain Gray and Ms Lamont have grappled with the challenges facing Scottish Labour.

None of those individuals has been able to shake the party out of complacency and that sense of entitlement which, despite the loss of two Scottish elections, seems to assume it is Labour’s right to govern in Scotland.

Admittedly, the referendum campaign saw something of a Scottish revival with the barnstorming performance of Gordon Brown and the steady hand of Alistair Darling at the tiller of the No campaign. But in terms of them leading the Scottish party, they are yesterday’s men. Despite suggestions that they would be willing to step into the breach at Holyrood, both have ruled out such a possibility.

With respect to Sarah Boyack and Neil Findlay, both capable politicians, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that they do not have the profile necessary to revive Labour’s fortunes.

That leaves Jim Murphy. Like Brown and Darling, he was highly visible during the referendum and had a “good” campaign. There will be those in Labour who have profound objections to a Blairite MP being parachuted into the Scottish Parliament, and the machinations in terms of securing a Holyrood seat may be considerable.

But these objections and challenges must be put to one side. Labour has to recognise that the events of the last few months exposed its vulnerability to the SNP. Throughout the campaign there was huge concern at the leaking of Labour votes to Yes – particularly in the west Central Belt. These people have to be won back. Murphy is someone with the stature to make a fist of that.

There will be endless arguments about whether the party intends to campaign on the centre ground or move to the left. But what it really requires is pragmatic leadership that can take on the SNP. Murphy is the most likely to provide that.

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